Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Daily Headlines: January 28, 2015 (Updated)

* Peru: The Peruvian Congress rejected a controversial labor reform law following pressure from young workers who believed the proposal discriminated them.

* Cuba: Former Cuban President Fidel Castro allegedly penned an article supporting the diplomatic rapprochement between the U.S. and Cuba despite admitting distrusting American policy.

Update: Earlier today, Current Cuban leader Rául Castro placed several conditions on fully normalizing ties between his country and the U.S. including returning the Guantanamo military base and lifting the decades-long trade embargo.

* Brazil: State-run energy firm Petrobras reported a third quarter loss of 9.1% but didn’t reveal how much money had been lost in a major corruption sandal.
* Venezuela: Is legislative chief Diosdado Cabello the head of a Venezuelan drug trafficking ring according to the claims of a defecting ex-top government bodyguard?

Video Source – YouTube user Reuters

Online Sources (including Update) – Voice of America; GlobalPost; Reuters; Miami Herald; ABC News

Monday, January 26, 2015

Daily Headlines: January 26, 2015

* Latin America: Will Bolivia soon follow the example of Cuba and become the next Latin American state to seek renewed diplomatic relations with the U.S.?

* El Salvador: Legislators in El Salvador recently paroled a woman sentenced to thirty years in prison for undergoing an abortion in 2007.

* Mexico: A measles outbreak that reportedly started in at a Disneyland theme park in December has spread across the border into Mexico.

* Colombia: University student Paulina Vega became the first Colombian representative since 1958 to win the Miss Universe contest

Video Source – YouTube user VOAvideo

Online Sources – Reuters; UPI; ABC News; Miami Herald

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Nuestro Cine: Beauty is Skin Deep?

The Miss Universe contest will be held tonight and perhaps no other country is more synonymous with the world’s top beauty pageant than Venezuela. Seven representatives from the South American country have won Miss Universe tonight including reigning titleholder Gabriela Isler. Nineteen-year-old Migbelis Lynette Castellanos is surely one of the favorites to the crown, which she hopes to win in order for her countrymen torn by economic uncertainty and deep political divisions to “forget everything that is happening for just a short while.” (As the cases of Genesis Carmona and Monica Spear showed, however, even beauty queens are not immune from becoming the targets of violence in their homeland.)

Venezuela’s pageant obsession that includes sending girls as young as four-years-old to train in special “beauty schools” is a theme explored in the film “3 Bellezas” (“3 Beauties”). The movie, examines the lives of Perla, a mom focused on training her daughters to become future beauty queens and her children willing to do whatever it takes to acquiesce to their mother’s wishes. Perla is not shy to teach her kids how to vomit meals or instill hem advice like only “beautiful women” are able to get whatever they desire. They drive to reach what they believe is the pinnacle of fame and fortune but the price they all pay could be very costly.

“I would like for people to understand that we’re acting superficial, said “3 Bellezas” director Carlos Caridad-Montero. “But there is a system that takes you to that level.”

The film takes a very critical look at beauty pageants in Venezuela, though even Caridad-Montero acknowledges those who feel that “attractiveness is seen as a way of climbing the social ladder.”

Below the page break is the trailer with English subtitles for “3 Bellezas” that premiered last Friday. Please check it out:

Friday, January 23, 2015

Daily Headlines: January 23, 2015

* Guatemala: Former Guatemalan police chief Pedro Garcia Arredondoz was ordered to pay $1.1 million in compensation to families of six victims massacred at the Spanish Embassy in 1980.

* Mexico: Human rights group Amnesty International urged the Mexican government to investigate the possible involvement of the military into the disappearance of forty-three students missing for near four months.

* Latin America: Uruguayan Foreign Minister Luis Almagro became the sole contender to succeed Chile's Jose Miguel Insulza as head of the Organization of American States.

* Brazil: Will the Brazilian economy soon enter in a recession for the second time in less than two years?

Video Source – YouTube user AFP 

Online Sources – Latin American Herald Tribune; ABC News; MercoPress; Reuters

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Daily Headlines: January 22, 2015

* U.S.: “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Dominican-American author Junot Díaz named by a panel of literary critics as the best 21st-centrury novel thus far.

* Argentina: President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner alleged that prosecutor Alberto Nisman didn't commit suicide and he received false information during his investigation into the 1994 AMIA bombing.

* Chile: Authorities will start a new a probe into the death of Chilean Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda who may have been poisoned days after the infamous military coup of 1973.

* Venezuela: President Nicolâs Maduro proposed increasing fuel prices and raising the minimum wage by 15% in order to try to boost a Venezuelan economy in recession.

Video Source – YouTube user Writer’s Confessions

Online Sources – Reuters; The Guardian; The Latin Americanist; TIME; Newsweek

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Daily Headlines: January 21, 2015

* Cuba: Senior U.S. and Cuban diplomats are currently meeting as part of the push to improve decades of fractured relations between both countries.

* Argentina: Judicial officials release the entire report made by recently killed prosecutor Alberto Nisman where he denounced a cover-up by the Argentine government regarding the 1994 AMIA bombing.

* Latin America: The Vatican recently announced that Argentine-born Pope Francis would visit Paraguay, Bolivia and Ecuador later this year.

* Guatemala: A Guatemalan court sentenced ex-police chief Pedro Garcia Arredondoz to ninety years in prison for a massacre at the Spanish Embassy in 1980.

Video Source – YouTube user CNN (“During his State of the Union speech (on Tuesday), President Obama explains why Congress should work to end any embargo against Cuba”.)

Online Sources – NBC News; Tico Times; The Latin Americanist; SBS; MercoPress

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Daily Headlines: January 20, 2015

* Mexico: An Austrian forensics lab reportedly told Mexican authorities that they do not have sufficient DNA residue to identify the possibly charred remains of more than forty missing students.

* Argentina: The investigator looking into the killing of top prosecutor Alberto Nisman said that she “could not rule out a provoked suicide” behind his death.

* Venezuela: Venezuela’s main opposition coalition have called on a “demonstration of empty pots against hunger and for change” in Caracas this Saturday.

* Haiti: President Michel Martelly swore in a new Cabinet yesterday but it may not be enough to calm increased political tensions in Haiti.

Video Source – YouTube via euronews (Video uploaded in November 2014).

Online Sources – NBC News; Reuters; El Universal; The Latin Americanist; ABC News

Monday, January 19, 2015

Top Argentine Prosecutor Dead in Possible Suicide (Updated)

Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman died less than a week after he accused President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of a cover-up over the deadly 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center.

Police located Nisman’s body with a single gunshot wound in the late night hours yesterday in his Buenos Aires apartment. Security Minister Sergio Berni hinted that Nisman committed suicide based on a pistol and used cartridge found near the body. Yet the prosecutor assigned to investigate Nisman’s death claimed that he had not left a suicide note behind.

The fifty-one-year-old passed away on the eve of scheduled testimony to a legislative committee on his allegations against Kirchner, Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and others. Nisman claimed on January 14th that the pair signed a memo of understanding (MOU) with Iran in 2013 in order to protect former government officials suspected of masterminding the bombing. In return for this immunity, Nisman wrote in a 300-page report that Iran was supposed to increase oil and grain exports to the South American country.

“I have been working on this for over two years, because agents of the Intelligence secretary whose names I cannot disclose are involved,” the prosecutor said last week.

Update: "What could have compelled someone to make the terrible decision to take his own life?" asked Kirchner in a lengthy statement issued via Facebook on Monday evening.

The president vehemently defended her government's role in the investigation of the AMIA bombing as well as the MOU signed with Iran nearly two years ago. She also claimed that there is a "very sordid" history behind the investigator's death and criticized numerous "incendiary" headlines in the Clarin daily newspaper.

Daily Headlines: January 19, 2015

* Mexico: While police arrested the suspected chief hit man of the Mexican drug gang behind the disappearances of forty-three students, two scientists have raised doubts into the federal government’s investigation into the incident.

* South America: Only 216 of its 420 competitors finished this year’s edition of the grueling Dakar rally that wound through Chile, Bolivia and Argentina.

* Brazil: Brazil’s government pulled its ambassador from Indonesia after a Brazilian national was executed on charges of drug trafficking.

* Venezuela: Followers of Venezuelan President Nicolâs Maduro welcomed him home following an official visit of seven countries that was unsuccessful in convincing OPEC nations to cut oil production. 

Video Source – YouTube user euronews (Last week there were clashes “between demonstrators and police outside military barracks in the Mexican city of Iguala where 43 students disappeared in September last year”.)

Online Sources – CBC News; The Seattle Times; euronews; Bloomberg; Jamaica Observer

Friday, January 16, 2015

Daily Headlines: January 16, 2015

* Cuba: Several new, relaxed travel and commerce restrictions from the U.S towards Cuba go into effect today as part of a bilateral push to normalize bilateral relations.

* Colombia: President Juan Manuel Santos announced his willingness to seek a bilateral ceasefire with the FARC yet a chief government negotiator noted that the Colombian military’s offensive against the rebels has not been suspended.

* Brazil: Health officials in Brazil removed the prohibition on the sale and import of a medicine containing a cannabis-based ingredient.

* Mexico: The U.S. will allow Mexican companies to apply for permission for “long-haul, cross-border transportation” based on NAFTA guidelines according to the State Department.

Video Source – YouTube user Newsy Politics

Online Sources – CNN; New York Times; Xinhua; ABC News

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Daily Headlines: January 15, 2015

* Guatemala: The genocide retrial of ex-Guatemalan strongman Efrain Rios Montt was once again suspended after he skipped attending a court hearing this week.

* Venezuela: Former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles called on the Venezuelan opposition to unite and protest against the government amid a worsening economic crisis.

* Mexico: At least twenty Mexican state officials including prosecutors, forensic investigators and state police are being investigated for allegedly helping cover up the extrajudicial killings of suspected gang members in June 2014.

* Colombia: Colombia will become the first Latin American country to use a new cell phone app aimed at providing free internet nationwide and championed by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Video Source – YouTube user WochitGeneralNews (The genocide retrial of former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt was initially suspended last week following the intervention of his lawyers).

Online Sources – BBC News; Bloomberg; ABC News; Voice of America

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Daily Headlines: January 14, 2015

* Venezuela: Moody’s downgraded Venezuela’s credit rating while President Nicolás Maduro traveled to fellow OPEC countries Saudi Arabia and Qatar in order to try to boost plunging oil prices.

* Haiti: Haiti’s political crisis worsened on Tuesday when the parliament was dissolved following failed negotiations.

* Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico reported 681 murders last year, which represents a 40% drop compared to the record high 1164 homicides in 2011.

* Mexico: The former mayor of the Mexican town of Iguala will be officially charged with the kidnapping of forty-three students missing for nearly four months and presumed dead.

Video Source – YouTube user Financial Times

Online Sources – Bloomberg; Reuters; Fox News Latino

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Daily Headlines: January 13, 2015 (Updated)

* Colombia: Colombian striker James Rodriguez won the FIFA Puskas Award for best goal of 2014 for his strike in last year’s World Cup round of 16 victory over Uruguay.

* Mexico: Maria de los Angeles Pineda Villa, the wife of former mayor of the Mexican town where forty-three students may have been massacred, will be tried over her alleged ties to local criminal gangs.

Update: On a related note, several family members of the disappeared students accused Mexican authorities of "assaulting" them with rocks and tear gas during a protest on January 12th. (Source link is in Spanish).

* Brazil: Several thousand striking autoworkers upset at the announcement of layoffs last week blocked traffic on a major highway connecting Sao Paulo to Brazil’s largest port.

* Argentina: Argentina’s central bank will reportedly receive $400 million from China as part of an $11 billion currency swap with the Asian country.

Video Source – YouTube user FIFATV

Online Sources including Update – ITV Sport; Reuters; The Latin Americanist; GlobalPost; Bloomberg; La Republica

Monday, January 12, 2015

Daily Headlines: January 12, 2015

* Haiti: Deep political divisions, economic uncertainty and outbreaks of disease are some of the challenges still faced in Haiti more than five years after a major earthquake hit the country.

* Cuba: U.S. officials confirmed the liberation of fifty-three Cuban political prisoners “whose release was sought as part of the U.S. agreement last month with the Cuban government”.

* U.S.: Actor, comedian and artist Taylor Negron died on Saturday at the age of 57 following an extended battle with cancer.

* El Salvador: The path to sainthood for assassinated Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero became clearer last week after a Vatican committee reportedly recognized him as a martyr.

Video Source – YouTube user AFP news agency

Online Sources – CBC News; The A.V. Club; The Latin Americanist; NPR; ABC News

Friday, January 9, 2015

Daily Headlines: January 9, 2015

* Cuba: Bilateral diplomatic negotiations between the U.S. and Cuba will reportedly take place on January 21st and 22nd while dissidents on the island claimed that 36 political prisoners have been freed over a 48 hour span.

* Peru: Former Peruvian strongman Alberto Fujimori received a twenty-five year prison sentence for corruption on top of four previous sentences on charges including human rights abuses.

* Argentina: Argentine Cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich has come under fire over his remarks on a seven-year-old indigenous girl who died due to tuberculosis and malnutrition.

* Nicaragua: The Chinese firm behind the construction of a controversial interoceanic canal alleged that the project would create some 25,000 jobs for Nicaraguans.

Video Source – YouTube user Pedazosdelaisla (Cuban hip-hop musician Angel Yunier Remon alias “El Critico” was among the thirty-six imprisoned dissidents liberated on January 8th and 9th, 2015).

Online Sources – Voice of America; Reuters; Fox News Latino; ABC News

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Daily Headlines: January 8, 2015

* Latin America: The Chinese government will invest $250 billion in Latin America and the Caribbean in order to strengthen ties between the region and the Asian country.

* Colombia: Colombia's second largest leftist guerrilla group, the ELN, could soon copy the FARC rebels and hold peace negotiations with the government.

* Mexico: Mexico will move forward with plans to bring more private investment to its oil industry despite the low price of the fossil fuel according to a spokesman for President Enrique Peña Nieto.

* Cuba: Cuban dissidents claimed that officials released three political prisoners including twin brothers sentenced to thirty months in jail.

Video Source – YouTube user CCTV America

Online Sources – Latin American Herald Tribune; The Guardian; Fox News Latino; Voice of America